I’m giving up fear for Lent

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image from Tin House

Hidden away in a large plastic bin are years of my writing; poems, plays, short stories, articles, essays… even a finished book-length manuscript. Why are they stored in a bin and buried in my bedroom?

Because I am terrified of rejection.

I used to send my work out, but after twenty-five rejection letters I quit. I couldn’t take the disappointment and depression any more. Every rejection felt like a rejection of me, not my writing. I was the loser who poured her soul into every word only to have all that work stomped on by a heartless editor. My writing was worthless, therefore I was worthless.

My ego became intertwined with my writing. How can it not? Writing comes from the heart; it makes you vulnerable. You have to open a vein into your inner core and let the creativity pour out. No wonder every rejection letter felt like a rejection of my soul. I was just another girl who thought she could write like the millions of others who think they can write. I’m not special. I don’t matter and neither does my writing.

Vulnerability turned to depression and depression became fear. Never wanting to feel that much misery again, I put my writing in a plastic bin and shoved it behind my bed.

The other day, someone asked me what I was giving up for Lent. Not being a Christian, I just shrugged and said, “candy.” But what actually is Lent? And why should you give something up to celebrate?

According to The Upper Room, Lent is the season of the Christian year when Christians focus on simple living, fasting and prayer to grow closer to God. For 40 days, the length of time Jesus wandered in the desert alone, Christians let go of material things and focus on their spirit. For this ritual to work you have to give up something you really love, or are really attached to.

I am absolutely attached to fear. Perhaps this is a blasphemous way of observing a holy tradition, but as I said, I’m not Christian. However, I do believe ritual and symbols are important and that reconnecting to our sense of spirit is vital. Making a commitment to something greater than ourselves makes us better humans. Some people find that in religion. I find it in creativity.

For the next forty days I will submit my writing. Every day, I will send one piece of my work out into the world and will not think about whether or not it is accepted. Acceptance isn’t the goal, getting over fear is. And I will do this in the spirit of Lent. I am letting go of ego and sharing my work with anyone who may find it beneficial. I am strengthening my creativity and weakening the inner critic who tells me I’m worthless. And if I get 40 rejections, so be it. I’ll decoupage them and make a gorgeous collage.

 

 

In my own world, writing

Blogging? What’s that. Right now I am immersed in my own, silent writing. I’m hidden away in a world I’ve created through language and ink. It takes focus and dedication to create this world, so I don’t want to wander away for even a brief moment. If I do, I might lose my way. After months of false starts and ideas, I’ve found the path through my own little forest of creativity. Writing it down is like following a candle’s flame in the distance; keep the light in sight and you won’t get lost.

Occasionally I need to trust I’ll find my way again and leave my own world. The real world with all its problems and joys grabs my attention. It’s a tricky balance: imagination and practicality. I need to stay grounded and aware of life, while at the same time protect solitude so I can write. I don’t want to tune out reality so much that I lose touch with time. But I also don’t want to get bogged down in bills and politics so much my imagination suffers. My awareness is juggling intuition. I write, therefore I am.

Because time to write is such a struggle, I tend to hang on to that state of mind with all my might. Nooooooo… I don’t want to pick up my daughter from school or return a phone call or wash another towel. I want to lock myself in my room and write. I’m a mother and a wife and a dog owner and I have a garden. I love my family, but just like all moms, I tend to give them all too much. So I cling to writing as if it’s the only thing that’s really mine.

When I’m engrossed in writing my book, I don’t blog. I know we’re “supposed” to; gotta keep building that audience and platform, the experts say. But when writing time is fleeting, it’s hard to care. I just want to write; let my readers find me on their own.

My own writing world is calling. Time to chase that candle flame again.

The Rough Draft, or Why my first draft is supposed to be awful

Fingers flying along my keyboard, I furiously write the first draft of my new book. I’ve given myself an unrealistic deadline: New Year’s Eve.   Hiding in my room late at night when I should be sleeping, I write. As soon as I drop my daughter off at school but before my first client, I write. I forgo the gym, forget to check my email and never return phone calls. I write in a frenzy with an unrealistic deadline calling the charge. Who cares if it’s unrealistic? This is the first, rough, god-awful draft. Getting words on paper, or screen, is all that matters.

You heard me, I said god-awful rough draft. My sentences are incomplete and my thoughts scattered. Most of my scenes don’t make sense and will be cut. My characters are boring and my dialogue worse. None of it is any good. I know that, but I keep writing. It’s not supposed to be any good yet.

My first drafts are always terrible. I’m really writing a fancy outline, piecing ideas together like a puzzle, waiting until later to fill in the middle.  Mostly exposition, I write down thousands of words each day as I try to create a cohesive structure for my thoughts. If I stop and worry about making the scenes strong or the prose pretty, I’ll lose the flow of the story, the heart that keeps the story together.

I love this part of writing a book.

Once the final page is written, I’ll let it breath for a few days. Then I’ll write again, cutting and filling and shaping the chaos I’ve written. With hard work the book will turn into something other people can read. That process can take years. I hope my rough draft isn’t so awful that I have to scrap the entire thing and start again. It happens. But I won’t worry about that right now. I’ll just keep writing, writing, writing, writing…

 

No time for social media because I’m writing

I hear it all the time: to sell books writers must be online marketing themselves. We need blogs updated four times a week. Active Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. Pinterest clip boards filled with images of scenery from our books. And now Instagram because people under 40 want to see us writing, not just read our Tweets.

How exactly are we supposed to get any writing done?

If I spend all that time looking for interesting things to post on my “page”, when will I finish writing a page in my book?

I’m sorry, but my life is not so interesting I think I should fill up the net with images of my toenails or what I ate for dinner. No one’s life is. But we writers will make things up to have something to share online. If only I could come up with that one clever Tweet that goes viral and suddenly I’m a star on line for a day. That one clever comment everyone will repost. My blog will get a bump and I’ll sell more books. It’s like winning the lottery.

If I spend creative energy thinking up funny sayings or hunting for inspirational quotes (which I do, I hate to say) then that is creative energy not spent writing.

Where is the balance? How do we write and still find someone to read it. Writing for yourself is no fun. Writing for thousands is thrilling. Or so I hear. Maybe if people like what I’ve written here in this blog they’ll share it and my blog will be featured all over Facebook. It’s worth a try.

Time to work on my book.

My daughter is back in school, so why am I not writing?

Writing is like exercise; you can have the desire to run a marathon or lift weights, but actually putting on your shoes and working out takes more than desire. You have to force yourself to go to the gym. Force yourself to sit in that chair with your laptop open and fingers hovering over the keyboard. It’s hard work. You have to build stamina and strength.

After a summer of entertaining a child, all I can focus on is “Animaniacs” reruns.

But my book is calling. I have a pile of notes and a complete outline. My plan is laid out. Now I just have to block out an hour a day and build up my marathon writing stamina. In time I’ll be humming through three hours of typing before my butt falls asleep.

Today, I feel like a jogger on that first, painful day.

Ugh.

10 things to do as soon as my daughter goes back to school

1. Gather all the doodles, notes and outlines I’ve been writing in between taking care of Rhia and write the first draft of my memoir.

2. Take care of my own health. Get that mammogram and the labs my doctor told me to get in June. Get my teeth cleaned.

3. Clean five months of dog hair, cookie crumbs and dirt from inside my car. Wash the seat covers. On second thought, take the car to someone who will clean all that crap for me.

4. Watch Dr. Who season 8, which is finally on Hulu and which I’ve had zero time to enjoy.

5. Indulge in my favorite hobby, terrarium and miniature garden making. Make enough good ones to sell so I can buy more plants. Mostly, this will be the time to shut off “mommy-mind” and turn on “creative-mind.”

6. Finish a pot of coffee.

7. See friends, especially the one who was injured this summer and who I promised to visit. But I haven’t been able to go anywhere because child is not in school.

8. Contact former clients and connect with potential new ones. I need more editing and copywriting work. Got any? Drop me a line. Please. My kid spent all my money this summer.

9. Trim my eyebrows.

10. Write, write, write, write, write…. and do that some more.

Reclaiming the joy of writing while being a caregiver.

Because of my husband’s cancer fight, my writing productivity has dropped. When I try working on my book my brain freezes and it takes hours to write a page. Before, the words flew through my fingers, but now they drip like melting snow on a roof.

I’ve decided that’s okay.

Somewhere along this road of creating a publishing company and editing business I lost the joy of writing. My work had to be useful, meaningful… productive. I didn’t allow myself the luxury of sipping strong coffee in a cafe while writing bad poetry no one would read.  “What are you writing?” sounded like a challenge; I’d better have an answer and several good pages to show.

I’m still working. Currently I’m writing a middle grade chapter book and a rough draft for my memoir. I’m also researching drag queen culture for a new play. Writing is in my blood. But instead of worrying about word counts and productivity, I’m relaxing into the process of writing. The outcome isn’t important right now.

My energy is needed to help my husband fight cancer and my child transition into adulthood. Therefore, I’m reclaiming the joy of writing, which includes several pages of awful poetry.